Planes, Trains, Buses, Cars---and Carbon Offsets

One of the biggest contributors to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is our means of transportation.  That being said, some forms have less impact than others.  Air travel is the worst, although airlines have recently been increasing their fuel efficiency and reducing the number of flights so that planes are flying closer to full capacity. Trains are the best choice and a small car with three people is a good second choice.

If you travel by plane and have calculated your carbon footprint, you are acutely aware of how much your air miles add to your carbon footprint.  (If you haven’t calculated your carbon footprint yet, the Internet has several sites that will help you do that, or ask a member of the Earth Stewards committee to help you.)

If you must travel by plane for business, to visit family, or for other non-leisure reasons, you can buy carbon offsets to help alleviate your impact on the environment.  When buying carbon offsets, you should consider whether they are real, verifiable, enforceable and permanent.  A good article discussing these points is the National Resources Defense Council article “Should You Buy Carbon Offsets” which you can find on the Internet. 

Two suggested places to buy carbon offsets are Terrapass, which has the choice of contributing monthly to their projects or choosing a specific project, and Native Energy which funds new projects rather than existing projects.  Both of these can be researched on the Internet.

So how many carbon offsets should you purchase if you are traveling by plane?  There are MANY factors that affect carbon dioxide production such as type of plane, long or short flight, or amount of cargo being carried, but a general number to use is 0.24 pounds of carbon dioxide per passenger per mile.

We are in the process of doing more research in this area and hope to have a longer information sheet available in the near future.  We hope to include in this local projects to which you can contribute money, or actually get your hands dirty by helping with the project.  A couple examples of these organizations are the Mackenzie River Trust, the Long Tom Watershed Council and Friends of Buford Park and Mt. Pisgah.